Tuesday 22 January, 2019
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Comelec can junk DQ case vs. Pimentel sans hearings: Macalintal

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MANILA — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) can motu proprio (on its own) dismiss the disqualification case filed by lawyer Ferdinand Topacio against re-electionist Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, even without requiring the latter to answer the petition, an election lawyer said Thursday.

Lawyer Romulo Macalintal noted that the Supreme Court (SC) has already ruled on the issue being raised by the petitioner.

“Decisions of the Supreme Court abound on issues similar to the issue raised in Topacio’s petition on whether or not the period of time that an elective official occupied the position after winning in his election protest is counted or considered for purposes of the term-limit rule,” Macalintal said in a statement.

The Constitution provides that the term of office of a senator is six years and that no senator can run for more than two consecutive terms.

“In the case of Pimentel, he lost in the May 2007 election for senator but eventually won his election protest against Senator (Juan Miguel) Zubiri in August 2011 and served merely the remaining two years unexpired term of Zubiri from August 2011 to June 2013,” Macalintal said.

The election lawyer cited the 2017 case of Albania vs. Comelec, where the High Court reiterated its previous similar doctrines in other election cases that the period of time that an elective official served after winning his election protest “did not constitute a complete and full service of his term (as) he did not hold the office for the full term of three years to which he was supposedly entitled to.”

“Thus, in Pimentel’s case, when he assumed the position of Senator only in August 2011 after winning his election protest against Zubiri, it cannot be said that Pimentel was able to serve the entire 2007 to 2013 term to which he was otherwise entitled. The almost four-year period during which Zubiri served as Senator is and ought to be considered ‘an involuntary interruption’ of Pimentel’s continuity of service,” he said.

“And, as ruled by the Supreme Court, ‘an involuntary interrupted term,cannot, in the context of the disqualification rule, be considered as one term’ for purposes of counting the term limit rule,” the election lawyer added.

He explained that since Pimentel did not serve the full 2007-2013 term, his service from August 2011 to June 2013 cannot be considered as “one term” for purposes of counting the two-term threshold for senators, which means that he has not “continuously served” as senator for two consecutive terms prior to the forthcoming 2019 elections.

“In other words, Pimentel has served only for one complete uninterrupted term from 2013-2019, which still qualifies him to run
for a second term from 2019-2025,” Macalintal said.

He added the poll body does not even need to conduct any hearing, which would only waste its precious time on an issue that it has
already or previously ruled upon and sustained by the High Court.

“The Comelec has this power under its constitutional duty to ‘enforce and administer all laws’ relating to the conduct of elections,” the election lawyer added. (PNA)

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